The Top 50 Albums of the Year | 2019

Desperately elite as the term ‘underground’ might appear in a landscape so incredibly equalized by globalized internet usage there is yet no better way to cast the appropriately dark and soiled umbrella of classification upon music made for folk who’re intent on picking deep beneath the ‘skin’ of their leisurely pursuit of their taste in sound. Heavy music is visceral, dangerous, cryptic and full of frightening ideas freed from the minds of brilliantly flawed freaks yet, an emotionally driven human practice all the same. At no point in the last several decades of my life have I seen fandom as anything but an individual form of spirituality, a point of opiatic luminescence in the mind reached as a non-believer, the uncounted ‘self’ — Alone. This is where solitary emotional reactions to music best guides my own taste and as such, it is traditionally obscene. To sit in those woods, the wilderness of solitude and absorb myriad disturbing realities full of foully dark energetic havoc is the only thrill left among us, we spoiled sentient apes. Pointless and worthless as a human being is within the bruised skin of a dying world, art [whatever it is, or intends] is the right ‘reason for existence’ anymore and that art must be elevated through dark and true zealous fervor. Otherwise, make the best of these end times with more heavy metal music, preferably the stuff released on vinyl with great cover art.

This is the best 50 out of at least 450+ albums given full review (and countless listened to, given short review) in 2019 — If you keep up with Grizzly Butts‘ weekly recaps, monthly columns, and regular reviews there’ll be very few surprises here in terms of heavy music but this ‘Best of 2019’ also features interest in some non-metal genres including some hardcore punk, noise rock, psychedelic rock, heavy psych, and various multi-genre specific entities. This list does not attempt any cumulative representation of any particular genre or sub-genre. I’ve omitted personal ratings because they are unimportant in a meaningfully ranked list; If you’re curious of the rating, full reviews will contain a score if you click on the appropriate link. Before the Top 50 Albums of the Year ensue here are 25 runners-up you should for sure to add to your to-listen list. NOTE: Each of the titles link to a full review unless noted:


75. Darkenhöld & Griffon – Atra Musica [Split] (2019) REVIEW
74. Unaussprechlichen Kulten – Teufelsbücher (2019) REVIEW
73. Demon Head – Hellfire Ocean Void (2019) REVIEW
72. Excuse – Prophets From the Occultic Cosmos (2019) REVIEW
71. Mortal Scepter – Where Light Suffocates (2019) REVIEW
70. Algebra – Pulse? (2019) REVIEW
69. Buildings – Negative Sound (2019) REVIEW
68. Cherubs – Immaculada High (2019) REVIEW
67. Departure Chandelier – Antichrist Rise to Power (2019) REVIEW
66. Funeral Storm – Arcane Mysteries (2019) REVIEW
65. Concrete Winds – Primitive Force (2019) REVIEW
64. Misþyrming – Algleymi (2019) REVIEW
63. Helheim – Rignir (2019) REVIEW
62. Sinmara – Hvísl Stjarnanna (2019) REVIEW
61. Spirit Adrift – Divided by Darkness (2019) REVIEW
60. Sadistic Ritual – Visionaire of Death (2019) REVIEW
59. Seer – Vol. 6 (2019) REVIEW
58. Nucleus – Entity (2019) REVIEW
57. PH – Osiris Hayden (2019) [Listen]
56. Florida Man – Tropical Depression (2019) REVIEW
55. Maestus – Deliquesce (2019) REVIEW
54. Orthodoxy – Novus Lux Dominus (2019) REVIEW
53. Mizmor – Cairn (2019) REVIEW
52. Blood Incantation – Hidden History of the Human Race (2019) REVIEW
51. Vitriol – Chrysalis (2019) REVIEW


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Artist Zig-Zags
Title [Type] They’ll Never Takes Us Alive [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

You’re telling me you bought that horrible fucking goof of a King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard “metal” album and didn’t even give this righteous metal-punk banger from Zig-Zags a second glance?! This Los Angeles area garage punk band channel the unholy yowling rock cocks of speed/thrash metal circa 1983 on thier third and I’d say most ‘complete’ record to date. The full listen is grungy, spacey, desperate, horror-ish, kitschy, and a little bit buzzed… All the right moods for metal-punk and straight from the stressed and stoned blast-furnace the trio hail from. A dog’s dinner for some, but a feast for my brains!


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Artist Asphodelus
Title [Type] Stygian Dreams [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Hamina, Finland death/doom metal project Cemetery Fog was on a very extreme trajectory to start so it came as some surprise when they changed their name to Asphodelus and began to suggest a drastic stylistic change. Dig up that ol’ early 90’s gothy, teenaged self-hatred because ‘Stygian Dreams’ recalls the era of records such as ‘Gothic’, ‘Dance of December Souls’, and ‘Walpurgisnacht’ in the best possible way. Katatonia circa 1993 is the most obvious comparison to draw; I’d normally not be excited about a band that simply recalled another era if this style of music wasn’t so rarely done well. All things considered Asphodelus bring their own songwriting sensibilities to that old atmosphere and prove their shift away from pure death/doom was very much worthwhile. A hugely repeatable epic, and probably the second best melodic death/doom record for the year behind Pulchra Morte.


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Artist Python
Title [Type] Astrological Warfare [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Depending how closely you’ve followed me through various pursuits these last ten years you’ll know that the madness of Paul Chain‘s late 80’s and early 90’s explorations of psychedelia, improvisation, and doom metal is a huge point of inspiration for me. The nearest delving to be done is likewise ancient between The Black, The Mezmerist, and early Pentagram adjacent projects on the side so, it is a rare gift to get a new album from New York based Python who add to the very small pantheon of lo-fi experimental psychedelic doom metal throughout human history. Ritualistic improvisational interludes, Liebling-esque howling fuzz-rockers, and a dual vocal performance that’ll drive you up a wall with its psychedelic shrieking freakouts all accumulate into a raw and droning full listen of ‘Astrological Warfare’. As I’d suggested in the full review Python are for a certain niche, a deep underground trench, and I don’t expect this to resonate with the average doom metal fan at all.


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Artist Ossuarium
Title [Type] Living Tomb [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

You might be listening to ‘Living Tomb’ right now, hitting that incredible bass tone and atmospheric section towards the end of “Malicious Equivalence”, and thinking “Number fuckin’ 47? You idiot!” but hey, hear me out: Ossuarium put out the fifth best death/doom album of 2019 in a year crammed with the stuff and this is just their debut! The important note here is that the Portland, Oregon band have cemented themselves as valuable in the greater death metal space as musicians who are beyond capable in doom metal, extreme doom metal, and death metal modes that they expertly combine into one gorgeous death/doom listening experience. Returning to the album now I’m reminded exactly why this release struck me so deeply when it released in February, it showed leagues of growth beyond their demo and well, ‘Living Tomb’ still absolutely rules. Ceremonium, Dusk, and early Paradise Lost spiritus meets modern n’ bounding ‘new old school’ death fidelity, pure class.


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Artist Take Offense
Title [Type] Keep an Eye Out [Full-length]
Listen on Bandcamp!

Chula Vista, California crossover/thrash metal band Take Offense are one of the latest additions to this list as I’d bought this about a month after it released in mid October. Their jump towards the hallowed realm of Excel, Suicidal Tendencies, Cro-Mags and early Prong had still suggested a 90’s hardcore lean in their sound on their 2018 EP but this goes full-on ’89 thrash/rock record in the finest tradition of crossover. Easily in my top 5 album covers of the year and has steadily climbed up this list.


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Artist Into Coffin
Title [Type] Unconquered Abysses [Full-length]
Listen on Bandcamp!

Marburg, Germany blackened death/doom metal band Into Coffin were unbeknownst to me until their split with Chilean occultists Cenotafio, which I could not ignore since they’d quickly followed that up with a split with Italian obscurists Devoid of Thought. As it turns out the trio shares members with underrated death/thrashers Omnivore and a modern prog-melodeath band but ‘Unconquered Abysses’ is something else entirely, resembling an old school death/doom sound compelled towards Disembowelment-worthy extended songwriting and some deep runs of riffs heavily inspired by The Ruins of Beverast past and present;  “Antediluvian Flames” appears to pull from Nagelfar, even. Despite all of the name-dropping going on here Into Coffin have found their own way, a quickly evolving death metal sound with impressively long and interwoven compositions that unfold themselves into great dioramas of shapeless occult madness. Four songs and 74 minutes means that the second half of the album is nearly 50 minutes and the full listen can be a lot to take in, they’ve not padded this thing with drone or funeral doom dirges and most of that hour and fifteen minutes is spent hurling huge death metal riffs at the listener. This sort of excess takes some commitment on the part of the musician and the avid listener, it is the perfect sort of niche to fall into and this example manages to retain some greater crossover appeal between ‘old school’ death metal crowds and atmospheric death/doom fans.


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Artist Ignivomous
Title [Type] Hieroglossia [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

In reassessing their options for a third album circa 2016 Australian dissonant death metal masters Ignivomous smartly added members of Inverloch and Altars to their already impressive collective. The result goes beyond expectations in terms of complex guitar threads and more variation of pace than ever with plenty of dips into doom and brutal atmospheric sprays a la Malthusian, ‘Hieroglossia’ is a more potent follow-up to ‘Contragenesis’, a maddening extension of those extremes built higher and more treacherously heavy than before. With all of that said, Ignivomous have not abandoned their core conceit, a hurtling war-metallic ball of black fire born from generations removed permutations of Incantation-esque death metal. Atmosphere is not everything but, the harrowing depth of ‘Hieroglossia’ thrives within its own sickening gaseous pallor; This record should absolutely be received as a high mark for death metal in 2019. As I stated in my review, this is not catchy or memorable but a thrilling, destabilizing havoc that places the listener in the spectacle of the present and hangs them above a very real pit of writhing discomfort.


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Artist Mystagos
Title [Type] Azoth [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

O’ how I am beaming at this pit of darkness, knowingly grasping for the riches of its graceful obscuritas! Madrid, Spain based musician Heolstar‘s fourteen year journey from the first Chains ov Beleth demo tape towards his incredibly refined work as Mystagos reveals a most personal philosophy on ‘Azoth’. A devotion to ritualistic occult alchemical expansion of his own left hand path in life sources the panacea of man, the mercurial curative piece of the existential puzzle that men are weighed down by, and elevates the experience of ‘being’ itself through a grand summoning of misanthropic and oft psychedelic black metal experimentation of the highest order. Stirring and volatile as these rhythms are in practice it is the monastic psychedelia of ‘Azoth’ that burnt a void into my chest as I listened over-and-over to this unveiling, void-crafting experience. Potent and truly intoxicating music that I felt was too brutally underrated within the grand excessive richness of black metal in 2019.


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Artist Undeath
Title [Type] The Compilation of Decomposition [Compilation]
LISTEN on Bandcamp!

The ‘most promising, totally-worth-the-hype new band of death metal riff-crafters in 2019’ is the rightful title for Rochester, New York trio Undeath who’ve dug a ditch of cosmic club-swinging death metal a la Tomb Mold all year long. Two fine demo tapes ‘Demo ’19‘ and ‘Sentient Autolysis‘ saw their songwriting develop from shuddering angular technical riff runs and ‘old school’ death pulling from that sweet spot where Finnish, New York and Canadian death metal all meld and rot into a multi-colored fractal fungal garden, ripe for the hallucinatory abyss that their future beholds. For whatever reason I began reading a collection of essays on ‘new mysterianism’ and the mind-body distinction as I discovered this band and it really fit the experience of Undeath, who conjure their own vision of dark fantasy that runs the full gamut of esoteric body horror all the way up towards brutal sci-fi dominance. The compilation of both demos shows a reasonable progression from first demo towards the second as compositions begin focused on ornate complexity before they slide into groove n’ attack on the second demo. Undeath are surely ready for an album and I’m shittin’ my pants, peein’ in jars waiting for more riffs.


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Artist Altar of Oblivion
Title [Type] The Seven Spirits [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Every choice made in recapitulating a year as fantastically nuanced and gorgeously stuffed with incredible doom metal art as 2019 was deserves some serious reflection as I will never forget the armfuls of heavy music that’d affected me, slapped me into presence and energetic enlightenment. ‘The Seven Spirits’ is a heavy metal album I will never forget because it is so catchy in its first twenty or so minutes, everything melted away for a few days as I’d discover it and I’d felt like I’d totally biffed it in not getting to the album earlier in April. Every time I see this album I want to listen to it again. I need to hear those big choruses and the huge Sabbath-thrashing (er, ‘Ancient Dreams‘-esque) gothy pulse beneath their anthemic source. Altar of Oblivion have made records worthy of the ages before but this is the highest, most righteous answer to their calling to date.


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Artist USA Nails
Title [Type] Life Cinema [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

2018’s Top 50 had my favorite art rock, noise rock and post-hardcore a bit higher in the ranking and this is more a testament to the high level of quality amongst heavy metal music these last few years rather than a reflection of my non-metal listening habits. High, high upon my non-metal favorites for the year is this fourth album from USA Nails who’ve veered towards classic post-punk, 2000’s post-hardcore, and classic noise rock for ‘Life Cinema’. As any fellow experiencing the technological doom the world over might’ve noticed, there is a maddening need to live a life ‘on display’ anymore and this acts as a general them for ‘Life Cinema’, generating anxietous rhythms to match mass uncertainty. USA Nails ‘ music probably speaks better for itself than I could and they’re in and out fast with a butt-shaking 26 minute noise-punk burst from start to finish. Extra love for Florida Man, Cherubs, Buildings, Tunic, Lightning Bolt, Kansakunnan Ylpeys and other noise rock killers that’d have been mentioned if this list could be 100 albums long.


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Artist Chrome Ghost
Title [Type] The Diving Bell [Full-length]
Listen on Bandcamp!

Quietly plugging away in their corner of the Sacramento, California doomspace is one of the global post-doom/atmospheric sludge metal arena’s best kept secrets, the impossible to contain emotive flood of Chrome Ghost. Their debut album ‘Choir of the Low Spirits’ was a moving, folk-tinged album that brought post-metal rhythms to harmonized vocal experimentation that’d begged for a second vocalist. Each EP since has featured the complete trio with Cole Thompson on vocals/bass as the band worked their way towards a second full-length, achieving their own well-woven sound. ‘The Diving Bell’ is the result of greater focus on their strengths, melodious harmonization applied to a modern swath of doom metal and post-metal that never wanders anywhere pointlessly; Each step forward is intentioned and ethereal to the point that it’d embody a great emotional beast, haunting a great watery grave. Use of a waterphone (likely with a bow, not mallet), something we only hear in movie and video game soundtrack Foley work anymore, actually gives depth and light behind the eyes of this great ghast of an album which spans four songs and a solid 40 minute length. Think somewhere along the lines of Chrch, Floor, and Yob in terms of fidelity and ethereal slow-motion doom. I know the mention of ‘post-metal’ will scare folks off but think of melodic doom metal first and foremost.


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Artist Mortiferum
Title [Type] Disgorged From Psychotic Depths [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

If you’ve ever dug for death metal heavily inspired by the early doomed death metal acts from Finland, such as Abhorrence, relative newcomers Mortiferum have found exactly the right seance to incant those old ways without sounding to muddy or dated. Though they sound vaguely like a post-‘The Karelian Isthmus’ tuned record (see: ‘The Ending Quest’) the songwriting, specifically the riffcraft, isn’t nearly as memorable (er, melodic) or fixated on any particularly redeeming direction and this leans away from the classics of the early 90’s and towards todays newer breed of death/doom acts such as Cryptic Brood, Spectral Voice, or Krypts. ‘Disgorged From Psychotic Depths’ develops slowly, even slower than many of their peers with similar sounds so I understand some of the lukewarm reactions to the piece as it begins but this is the sort of record that improves upon its central theme around the middle of the full listen, expanding its nuance towards some fully morbid use of that dry-casket production sound. It is a debut and surely suffers from some overwrought focus on ripping through atmospheric riffs to guide the listener through complex rhythmic shapes rather than creating any particular ‘effect’ with those movements. These pieces are not null but even the massive “Funereal Hallucinations” hits a point of discord in its later third. They’re a bit green in terms of fully commanding an album performance but that never stopped any great death metal band from banging out a heavy record, I was drawn back to Mortiferum‘s debut countless times just to be in the midst of its well designed timbres.


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Artist Desecresy
Title [Type] Towards Nebulae [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

The genius of Tommi Grönqvist‘s Desecresy is a devastatingly gravel-smacked sense of cavernous atmosphere that lends this Finnish death metal act an entirely unique sound. ‘Towards Nebulae’ is the sixth full-lenth from the band since 2009, the third album performed fully by Grönqvist, and second album where he has provided his guttural vocal style throughout. Desecresy is a death metal band defined by a raw chasm of sound designed for layered dissonance, contrapuntal guitar arrangements, and heavily palm-muted bursts of doom-ridden death metal crawls. This spiritual successor to Slugathor is a lo-fi and very DIY experience but is in no way amateurish or meagerly presented; I think that inherent sense of discordance folks report is too easily misunderstood as it was in groups like Ghoulgotha. The ragged stomp of ‘Towards Nebulae’ is not divergent from Desecresy‘s known path thus far although their last three albums have all been increasingly lead driven and full of heady dual guitar trickery that plays with layering, stereo effects, and volume swells for impact. It feels like a ‘riff’ album but never stops being a bellowing dirge through a claustrophobic lava tube. So few bands have distinct sounds, distinct riff styles, and well developed musical personalities so, do not discount the very intentional sound design of this project.


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Artist Purification
Title [Type] Destruction of the Wicked [Full-length]
Listen on Bandcamp! | INTERVIEW

It is just for a thrill that they kill! Sons of Satan, pouring across the hill like Orcs alight with eyes of fire and axes black with the blood of Christian followers. Burn their Churches with fire! Yet another fine example of the haunted forests in the Pacific Northwest of the United States harboring the most ancient and powerful daimonian presences to ever tickle the nape of the laymen’s neck! They’re blasphemers! A shocking duo of Christian-piledriving bass n’ drum traditional doom metal high-balling a deviled load of NWOBHM enriched gloom and stomping rock numbers — A pure and virile defiance, a true nightmare for the pious. Tuneful, minimal, wrist-gripping and eye-spinning altar stabbed-and-bled trad metal rituals on a dreary, rainy evening. You will know them by the sound of their victims freshly howled screams hanging int he air upon sacrifice. Stay indoors this eve… Purification yet storm the darkness, in search of Christ’s daughters, sons and any manner of holy ghost to corrupt.


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Artist Kaleidoscope
Title [Type] After the Futures… [Full-length]
Listen on Bandcamp!

Everything I love about 80’s hardcore punk (well, excepting crossover) is extruded into the wrangled proteins responsible for the musical DNA of New York punk band Kaleidoscope who venture from the noise/death rock tinged acts like Born Against, Rudimentary Peni, later Rollins-era Black Flag and circle back upon Necros and Negative Approach for inspiration whenever things start to drag. Whats that? My references are too old? Shit. Uh, think… The F.U.‘s ‘Kill For Christ’ meets early Condominium. Dang, still too old to be a hardcore punk fan with any clout, should’ve waited ’til my 30’s to go metal, eh. Unconventional in practice and conventional in influence is a great sweet spot for modern day hardcore punk.


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Artist Serpent Column
Title [Type] Mirror in Darkness [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW! | INTERVIEW

Not sure how Serpent Column hit #34 again for the second time in a row on my end of the year list but it should be a testament to the consistent vibrancy of the limit-pushing black metal project. To quote the introduction to my review: “The potential bleakness one could emotionally achieve in times of solidifying trauma or those lowest points in life is perhaps the stuff that Euripedes were made of, so to speak, if not for the interventions of the Gods to tip any proverbial scale left or right of life and death. Deus ex machina is hardly a reality for most non-spiritual wretches today and the likelihood of a topple into self-defeat by way of a perceptible lack of character (fiber) soon pulls back upon the cloak of meaning the current population of fellowes persists with– That is to say a severe drought of self-examination is the result of no great spiritual guidance accepted into societies who’re attuned by the heartless savagery of a plainly primitive anthropocene future for all equal men. Enriched by the romantic destruction of the world ruled by cretins and alight with Heidegger‘s late principles of poetry and the inescapable grip of technology there appears greater ‘purpose’ achieved in the mellifluous hue-and-cry of ‘Mirror in Darkness’, this second gift of obsidian overflow by the hands of the enigmatic Serpent Column. Cumulative and well… deeply reflective, this continuation of forms is profound iteration from new angles, a new sturm und drang beyond the rational limits of the average mind.” — In other words, it is the unveiling of a thousand cycles in rapid succession, an obliteration of forms. A handful of bands have similar influences, none sound like this. If you loved the album and want to know more, read the interview.


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Artist Mefitis
Title [Type] Emberdawn [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Undoubtedly one of the most passed-by and underrated records of 2019 this debut from Oakland, California black/death metal duo Mefitis is an incredible scan of the last decade of underground death and black metal pulse that likewise directly and sincerely calls forth brilliant taste in classic extreme metal. ‘Emberdawn’ first conjures the scent of Swedish black/death metal circa 1993 where bands like Dawn, At the Gates, Decameron and Sarcasm were building legacies from classically inspired works but these relatively young musicians are not stuck in a plain Dissection-esque modus, at all. Their past lies in equal love for the complexities of technical death metal, classic Finnish death, and all of the incredible things that lie beyond the black horizon. Plenty of modern influences push in as well, all of them working well within that early pre-‘Slaughter of the Soul’ At the Gates realm, each song is meticulously concieved and often defined by those smaller details. I mention Absu, Loudblast, and Stench in the full review, so you can be sure that I loved it. This was initially much higher on this list but I didn’t find myself returning to it much despite a 2-3 month long obsession with it. A hidden gem for people to discover years down the road, I suppose.


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Artist Child Bite
Title [Type] Blow Off the Omens [Full-length]
Listen on Bandcamp

Child Bite‘s fidgeting kaleidoscopic interpretation of the chaos-and-propaganda addled mentality of all them gawking groupthink dependent victims of 2019 is itself a Burgess worthy transcendence of time and place miraculously set in the present and screaming at The Sky is Falling and I Want My Mommy levels of hysteria. The Detroit noise rock/post-hardcore act aren’t their old selves on this fifth album, they’re post-nostalgic and spraying surrealistic noise rock piss all over the past after being freed from something, whatever self-entrenched barrier broke between their first several records, ‘Negative Noise’ (2016), and today. They’ve pulled this act of auto-erotic subversion off in the hands of Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio with the drummer from the Zebras on hand and hell, throw in a guitar solo from Chewy (Voivod), why not?! I dunno, you should be way more excited about this one, Child Bite are one of the best live bands I’ve seen in the last decade and this album is a new peak for their whole gig. Alright, you can pull your fingers out of your ears now… The rest of this list is metal.


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Artist Ceremony of Silence
Title [Type] Oútis [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

No doubt Willowtip Records chose Ceremony of Silence for their skilled ‘modern’ death metal sound that focuses on their own distinctly atmospheric form of technical-progressive brutality. ‘Oútis’ offers a wealth of existential thought set to Gorguts worthy dissonance, Immolation bound attack, and a Mithras-esque brutal pace that rolls at an ‘In Their Darkened Shrines’ level of riffing. How they manage to retain this obsidian polish despite the style of the record constantly veering into blackened and progressive realms is a true conquest and I’d wish more modern-minded bands sounded like this. 35 minutes total is exactly the right length for an album in this style which I’ve not personally come across since ‘On Strange Loops’. ‘Oútis’ is by far one of my most frequent listens this year in terms of death metal and likewise sports some of my favorite insert/art design on an LP this year. “Black Sea of Drought” should win most death metal heads over, at least give that song a spin.


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Artist Superstition
Title [Type] The Anatomy of Unholy Transformation [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

There were a lot of riffs in 2019 and at least half of them came from Santa Fe, New Mexico death metal band Superstition on their debut full-length. Anyone who’d heard their ‘Surging Throng of Evil’s Might’ demo knew this would be solidly packed with death-thrash riffs but I was still blown away by the how hard they went at it. Mortem comes to mind in terms of frequency of riffs but style is closer to Obscure Burial or Sadistic Intent, a certain ‘Altars of Madness’ grey-area between late 80’s thrash and death metal. Infernal Conjuration released a comparable album the week prior so this releasing mid-June meant I was able to keep that ‘murderous barrage of death metal riffs’ thread going all summer. These guys went on tour with Tomb Mold soon after and the YouTube show ‘n tell crowd seemed to love it, too but I’d expected to see more people discussing Superstition on their end of year lists. One of the best guitar tones this year in terms of bands I’d like to hear cover Messiah‘s “Choir of Horrors”.


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Artist Ripper
Title [Type] Sensory Stagnation [EP]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

I don’t want to downplay the affection I have for Ripper‘s discography prior to the release of ‘Sensory Stagnation’ but this EP is such a success because of how different it sounds from their classic German thrash obsessed style that has morphed into a mix of ‘Piece of Time’-era Atheist applied to songwriting that yet recalls Kreator‘s refined ‘Extreme Aggression’ record. The bass guitar work on this EP is incredible and should immediately conjure visions of StarGazer, Sadus and their ilk thanks to Pablo Cortés who left the band after this recording and started his death metal band Suppression back up; So if you’re into the bass performance here and want a more death metal style I’d recommend that ‘Repugnant Remains’ EP as well. ‘Sensory Stagnation’ is a world class ‘old school’ technical death/thrash record, though, and I have been obsessed with it since receiving it. If I decided this list based on riffs alone this’d probably be in the Top 5. Here’s hoping an LP in this style will follow soon.


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Artist Witch Trail
Title [Type] The Sun Has Left the Hill [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Psychedelic blackened post-punk isn’t that strange of an idea at the end of this particular decade and Ghent, Belgium based trio Witch Trail are that by-chance perfect seduction of implied extreme metal that delivers a screaming post-punk directed post-black metal record… with a purple-and-black psychedelia splattered production, I mean take a hit of “Lucid” and “Silent Running” and pass out. Is it even post-black metal or is this just a really raw noise rock album with a psilocybe habit? The guitar playing splits the stylistic thread about even and it makes for an atmospheric rock album full of rabidly fidgeting guitar work that works perfectly in the realm of post-black music. “Silent Running” is easily the #1 song I’ve put on repeat this second half of the year, the progression is an addiction. There is no sense fighting off something as memorable and uniquely constructed as ‘The Sun Has Left the Hill’.


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Artist Infernal Conjuration
Title [Type] Infernale Metallum Mortis [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Mexican death metal band Infernal Conjuration are an expert example of pure death metal circa ‘1987 that’d still bear the stiffness of thrash metal riffing but excel at manipulating blasts into violent death metal typically reserved for nascent death/thrash mastery in Chile (Atomic Aggressor, Pentagram), Peru (Mortem), and the Los Angeles area (Sadistic Intent). ‘Infernale Metallum Mortis’ fits into that pantheon just as tightly as Superstition‘s comparable debut but with an approach driven more by early Death and Possessed while still giving full-on nods to the first Morbid Angel album; “Profound Immortality” should justify this immediately. The purpose of this level of comparison is meant to suggest that Infernal Conjuration is a band with a fundamental understanding of the death metal riff and not only are they classics-minded but the album develops towards an Infinitum Obscure / The Chasm level of intricacy on a few of the songs here (see: “Necrolatria (A los Muertos Blasfemos)”) suggesting there are great possibilities beyond for this band if their sound intends to develop beyond this pristine state.


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Artist Sarcasm
Title [Type] Esoteric Tales of the Unserene [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

It should blow many minds that Sarcasm have been thriving since reuniting in 2015 and now have three full-lengths and a well-done documentation of their early days as a contemporary of groups like At the Gates, Eucharist, Unanimated and Dawn. I can’t count how many hours I’ve spent listening to their ‘A Touch of the Burning Red Sunset‘ demo tape (via a late 90’s compilation CD) from 1994 and imagining what a full album would sound like so, to see them excel with new material was one of the biggest highlights of 2019 for me, as a fan. ‘Esoteric Tales of the Unserene’ holds that mystic melodic black/death metal thread Sarcasm had in 1994 and develops it into a refined and melody-forward dual guitar treasury of riffs and intricate melodic runs via Anders Eriksson (Deathswarm) and Peter Laitinen (Imperial Domain). As a Swedish melodic death fan who leans towards the edgier side of No Fashion Records output this is exactly the sort of album I’ve collected for years and I know how infinitely repeatable this caliber of guitar work can be, so I’d latched onto the infinite melodious trance of ‘Esoteric Tales of the Unserene’ very quickly.


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Artist Drastus
Title [Type] La Croix de Sang [Full-length]
Click HERE to Read the full REVIEW!

There should be no humanity attached to a rendering such as Drastus‘ ‘La Croix de Sange’, it is an offense that must be treated as if it were the great beast — To fear and torment with our scurrying cries as its dark, deep set heroism spears through the mind of those left, still shackled by Christ. Only true zealous devotion could cause a mortal man to do this, this bolt of mind-shattering guitar driven violence. These are inhuman feats, indiscernible as human beyond the harrowing screams from within as if Nazgûl delighted with the sight of their inevitable prey. ‘La Croix de Sang’ survived in my mind since its surprise release at the start of March as a guitar album, a driven and meticulously crafted perfection of the bloodied orthodox black metal craft, beaten beyond its edges into steeled and relentless mastery of its own intentional shapes. Drastus have always brought this immaculate level of guitar work and contemporary phrasing but the drums have never been exactly this good as French drummer Kévin Paradis (Sutrah, Musmahhu, Mithridatic) was exactly the right person to bring this record to life. The vocal work is ultimately what kept me coming back and marveling at the inner workings of ‘La Croix de Sang’, specifically the intermittently used ‘clean’ vocals which are unusually phrased. Easily one of the best black metal releases of the year. I’d suggest listening to “Hermetic Silence” and “Ocissor” back to back.


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Artist Magic Circle
Title [Type] Departed Souls [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Boston’s traditional heavy/doom metal band Magic Circle double-hit the late 70’s heavy metal bong on this third full-length, now resembling classic Angel Witch, Quartz and Trouble as they burn through this impassioned and ruthlessly dark mid-paced maze of riffs. Brendan Radigan continues to be one of the most all-in, belting it out vocalists in modern doom metal though much of ‘Departed Souls’ finds him practicing restraint for the sake of songwriting. This might be the first Magic Circle record that hits this heavily upon psychedelic rock in addition to thier heavy/doom metal sound. I couldn’t help but think of later Cathedral on “A Day Will Dawn Without Nightmares” and early 90’s Trouble on “Nightland”. Those are my own references anyhow, no doubt most folks will at least get a hint of NWOBHM influence. Is it the best Magic Circle album ever? Eh, the nostalgia of discovering the first album when it released is yet a huge memory. I could at least concede that this most developed traditional heavy/hard psych version of Magic Circle is the finest standard they’ve ever been captured at.


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Artist Pulver
Title [Type] Kings Under the Sand [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Bavarian heavy metal/hard rock quintet Pulver sound as if they were pulled from the opening slot on a Motörhead tour circa 1982 between their Algy Ward-esque vocalist and Budgie worthy melodic heavy metal sound. This is definitely something meant for the Keep it True crowd and I’m a hundred percent the right mark for this gruff and sentimental style of heavy rock and true metal, leaning towards NWOBHM. I’d read a review recently that digs at the album for not being ‘ballsy’ enough to go over a certain speed, and I had to scratch my head at that because they’d missed the heavy rock influences (a la every Tank record, btw) and all of the catchy-as-fuck songwriting throughout ‘Kings Under the Sand’ to discount it for such a trivial thought. Hell, all I have to do is look at this album and I hear the chorus to the title track. Everything Gates of Hell put out this year killed, all of it making my Top 100 overall, and Pulver‘s album was easily #2 of the bunch for my tastes.


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Artist Imprecation
Title [Type] Damnatio ad Bestias [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

The reformation of Imprecation ten years ago was already a massive gift to death metal by the time they’d released ‘Satanae Tenebris Infinita’ (2013) and every self-respecting death metal fiend with any taste was right there where the void was filled by these early 90’s United States brutal death-cultists a la Infester, Morpheus Descends, and Crucifier. ‘Damnatio ad Bestias’ is somehow even better, a full step up in every sense as a grinding blackened death metal album that capably stretches from death/doom to late 90’s Morbid Angel and still strikes upon the pacing and compositional tics that Imprecation are known for. This timeless blasphemy sits far, far above a lot of the popular death metal bands touring borrowed-ass riffs and copped style these days — Without a doubt Imprecation bests them all in the realm of true death metal attack. The heaviest release of the year.


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Artist Pale Grey Lore
Title [Type] Eschatology [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

This heavy psychedelic doom/rock band from Colombus, Ohio wrote one of the most memorable and damned catchy records of 2019 with ‘Eschatology’, an elaborate revenge fantasy aimed at the ills of a damned world. Pale Grey Lore are essentially a stoner rock band with some heavy psych and doom metal influences and this album is a little bit darker and more serious than some of their past material, probably what’d drawn me into it in the first place. The first thing that came to mind when first putting on ‘Eschatology’ was Snail‘s ‘Feral’ for that full-range 90’s psychedelic alt-rock sound and its many dips into heavier, gloomier territory. I love this record, I don’t know if there is a simpler way to express what an easy experience it has been to connect with from the first listen. Catchy as hell stuff that I have pulled off the shelf often since it came out. I even bought a shirt! If this isn’t your genre, put on “Void-Cursed” and see if you warm up to it.


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Artist Akrotheism
Title [Type] Law of Seven Deaths [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

In pulling a page from Dion Fortune‘s infamous works, a knowledge divined from a lifetime of sleep amidst the cosmos, Greek black metal band Akrotheism sprout a newly refined lifecode — A masterful and wretchedly underrated stream of obsidian guidance through the torment of our grinding existence that promises transcendence at every turn. My mind was enriched and my consciousness elevated by this experience, it had me reading about, researching, and obsessing over astral projection for months. It was difficult to not be distracted away from ‘Law of Seven Deaths’ as it came nearby similarly achieved records from Drastus and Sinmara, which are likewise high on this list for 2019, but ultimately Akrotheism was the one that I’d obsess over most. Funeral Mist, Nightbringer, Serpent Noir, really the best of modern black metal artistry comes to mind while sitting with this fine album but because of the similar production and atmospheric focus from the inimitable Stephen Lockhart it’ll more than likely remind folks of Svartidauði‘s most recent epic. 2019 was crammed with the highest orders and magnitudes of black metal I’ve witnessed in real time and I’d suggest ‘Law of Seven Deaths’ is easily one of the best.


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Artist Runemagick
Title [Type] Into Desolate Realms [Full-length]
BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

As I was listening to ‘Into Desolate Realms’ I began reading about deaths caused by asphyxiation from natural gas emanations by way of volcanic events as the imagery on the cover reminded me of a story we’d been taught in high school about a volcanic lake that’d stored carbon monoxide in its waters that built up and released suddenly, killing an entire village in their sleep. This sets the mood beautifully for this album from Swedish death/doom legends Runemagick the second since their reformation in 2017. The changes in their approach to rhythm (which is instinctual, intuitive in motion) since going on hiatus in 2007 appear to have been difficult to follow for some folks, I think because they’d missed the records from Heavydeath and Nicklas Rudolfsson‘s multiple death/doom projects since. I figure this sort of psychedelic death/doom dirge isn’t meant for folks who don’t dig beneath the surface level of whatever heavy music they’re experiencing, stifled by their own expectations and not the experience provided in the present. ‘Into Desolate Realms’ is that fog of death, a blanket of suffocating psychedelia, eyes full of tracers amidst an ethereal gasp of death leaving the nose and mouth of the dying. Thirteen albums into Runemagick‘s legacy and they’re still one of the most compelling and unique acts no matter where their sound has been, or will go in the future. If you’re as enamored with this 50 minute album keep in mind the band put out a whole other 50 minutes of releases in 2019, also, between a split, a single and an EP.


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Artist Chevalier
Title [Type] Destiny Calls [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

In my review for ‘Destiny Calls’ I believe I refer to Finnish epic speed metal act Chevalier as grime n’ acid-soaked speed metal, referencing classic US 80’s heavy metal (Omen, Brocas Helm) as well as mid-80’s French speed metal classics (ADX, Sortilège) but I’m not sure if I emphasized the sort of German non-witching speed metal from around ’85 that also informs this masterful creation. What a relief it was to fire up this debut from the Helsinki based band, which features members of Steel Machine, Decaying and Demon’s Gate, only to find that they had not wiped away that psychedelic garage-metal dirt provided by a string of self-recorded tapes from the band these last few years. This is one of those bands where I love every minute of what they’re doing and have since their first admittedly very raw release. Finding a band you really like in their formative stages can suck when their full-length inevitably sounds quite different than a raw demo or refines their sound too much; This is fortunately not the case with Chevalier, they’ve found the right balance of analog sounding effects and raw-screaming speed metal noise to keep it true to their unique sound. More bands need to hit up Tapio Lepistö as he’s produced this along with excellent work from Garden of Worm, Ranger, Swallowed, etc. always getting a great authentic sound regardless of genre specificity.


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Artist Epitaphe
Title [Type] I [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

French quartet Epitaphe blend death/doom and blackened death metal with a meticulous ear for atmospheric dread and funereal distance on this Esoteric and The Ruins of Beverast influenced debut that comes after a decade of soul-searching for the band. They’re no doubt perfectionists who are in no certain hurry to rush out underdeveloped art and this finds every moment of this 64 minute mountain of an album considered, aflame with thought, and a heaviness so diabolic it’d bested my expectations built by the ‘Demo MMXVII’ tape which was less focused, more of a rawly dissonant attack. In my review I’d compared ‘I’ to releases from  Chaos Echœs, Krypts, and Inverloch and that should give an idea of atmospheric heft as well as the veracity of their dominant black/death metal tirades throughout. As enthusiastic as I am about ‘I’ it is merely a beginning for this talented band and that only adds to my appreciation of the experience the record offers. A raw but appreciably grand triumph.


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Artist Ares Kingdom
Title [Type] By the Light of Their Destruction [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

As a stretch towards the unifying principles of death/thrash in their own way Ares Kingdom was always a step beyond their ‘all in one’ approach as the core of Order From Chaos, ‘By the Light of Their Destruction’ surprisingly reminisces over the in-between and early inspirations of Chuck Keller‘s Vupecula demos and actually begins to pull in some of the bounding violence of the 80’s black and death metal boon that’d influenced Order From Chaos into underground legendry in the first place. As I was pulling references in an attempt to explain what this record sounded like I soon realized a lot of my thoughts aligned with the bands they’d covered on their ‘Veneration’ covers record a few years prior, this reinforced a sense of reminiscence and re-invigoration driving ‘By the Light of Their Destruction’; Hell, the title itself suggests there is a fire within still burning in defiance and it will be felt upon listening. Beyond the fine art of the piece, the incredible lyrics, and the brutal style it blasts throughout, what struck me most initially was the ‘live’ feeling production sound that echoes downward creating a realistic spatial presence that boosts the otherworldly and aggressive tone of the full listen. Easily one of the best bands in extreme metal today and probably their most savagely performed record to date.


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Artist Pulchra Morte
Title [Type] Divina Autem et Aniles [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

A great inspirational distortion struck me as I discovered Pulchra Morte, having not paid particularly close attention to their “Soulstench” single amidst the chaos at the end of 2018. As beguiling and intensely rewarding as it was to dig amongst the details of ‘Divina Autem et Aniles’ and pry into the resumes of this band the effect of the music is much more important. The roots of the album do reside in early Paradise Lost and the many bands that’d formed after ‘Lost Paradise’, well… ‘Gothic’ released in the earliest 90’s but this isn’t a plain imitation of that, and instead comes from the capable hands of folks involved in classic death metal band Eulogy. The triumph of this debut is its intended goal being met, to create extreme music with meaningful atmospheric values and more importantly with feeling. It ends up being the best melodic death/doom record of 2019 and easily the most memorable death metal record this year. It is a pure and earnest joy to return to such devastating sorrow with each listen and I am anticipating their in-development second album.


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Artist Deathspell Omega
Title [Type] The Furnaces of Palingenesia [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

What better testament to the high art created by mysterious French extreme metal innovators Deathspell Omega than the oddly confabulated controversy surrounding their sinister implied membership. Consider ‘The Furnaces of Palingenesia’ as an elaborately performed manifesto by a character, a torturous leader describing his plans for the torment of the world and reveling in the detail of each enacted excruciating manipulation towards the extinction of the entire human race. The literature suggested on the explanation of the themes and philosophies expressed on the album is a dense amount of research to approach with any seriousness because it comes from a dedicated mind; The life-work of this entity. It should be as complex and elaborately concieved as it is especially when considering the performances on this inhuman black metal album, the clear result of intense study of defiant spirituality. It begs to be carefully perused, slowly read and absorbed that the ultimate ‘message’ of the record includes the death of all humanity. Deathspell Omega can be credited with elevating extreme music, innovating both in the realm of production values and stylistic guitar techniques as well as compositional distortions that are now entirely commonplace amongst dark black and death metal acts. Still, nothing comes close to thier mastery and the whole of ‘The Furnaces of Palingenesia’ is not yet heralded high enough as a great step beyond their past productions, taking high class high fidelity strikes with their sound that all work brilliantly. It would be entirely insincere to not include this record in the greater conversation of music in 2019.


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Artist Vircolac
Title [Type] Masque [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Homage to the dead, an homage to death, but not a plain ‘retro’ homage to death metal Irish blackened death metal band Vircolac find meaning not in tradition but in ‘defiance as a tradition’ among the culture they’ve risen from. ‘Masque’ is an invigorating needle of atmospheric blackened death metal that rants and raves across its ~37 minute length, conjuring great feats of hallucinogenic darkness unveiling death as if it were a fabled monster soon erased from the almanacs of men. The sense that Vircolac are inventing something new out of the old ways is a sentiment echoed in a lot of my choices for the best of the year but, — The main reason ‘Masque’ ranks so highly is the listening experience itself, which is frantically active and intermittently meditative, always plucking away at some kind of psychotogenic trill or twisted guitar run. I’d referenced Cadaver, Atrocity, Venenum and ‘The Formulas of Death’-era Tribulation in my review and I still think this is vague but the best way to introduce what ‘Masque’ does.


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Artist Inculter
Title [Type] Fatal Visions [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Inculter‘s ‘Fatal Visions’ is the most vital hit of classic thrash minded extreme metal-tinged riffs since, well, last year when a few of these guys put out that murderous Sepulcher record, ‘Panoptic Horror’. The intent of this album’s sound design and overall style should be evident within seconds of the first song playing as its late 80’s thrash guitar tone and ‘Pleasure to Kill’ / ‘Schizophrenia’ drum sound invokes the most violent era of classic thrash as it began to crossover with emerging death metal artists. This is a bold move from a band that’d garnered a lot of praise for their first album’s black/thrash metal style and though the addition of Shakma‘s guitarist does allow some of that Aura Noir style to break through, ‘Fatal Visions’ strikes directly at that space shared by early releases from Kreator, Sepultura, and Necrodeath. Could they still be considered a blackened thrash band? Yeah, actually ‘Fragment of Insanity’ is a good comparison, with elements of emergent black and death metal set to a pure thrash record. Easily up there at the peak of thrash metal for 2019.


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Artist Bölzer
Title [Type] Lese Majesty [EP]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Zürich based blackened death metal duo Bölzer continue to punt the bland norms that surround them while polishing their own distinct and inventive take on extreme metal. Their development of this sound finds them doubly progressive beyond their appearance on the ‘C.H.A.O.S.‘ split in 2017. At the heart of the experience is yet the stoicism of modern German occult black metal applied to less traditional death metal forms by way of a 10-string guitar and the expanding vocal capabilities of KzR. Is ‘Lese Majesty’ a reaction to their divisive (to some) debut ‘Hero’? I’d say it is moreso a doubling down on those forms while entirely rethinking the production sound, tonality, and attack of the songwriting. At the very least they’ve taken the criticism that their aligned fandom missed the death metal sound, the attack, of their first demo and championed EP releases leading up to ‘Hero’. Even if the term is only being used loosely there is the tendency to see Bölzer as a progressive extreme metal band because they frequently sound ‘a step beyond’ any comparable band within their ascribed genre niche. One of my most listened records these last several months.


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Artist Lord Vicar
Title [Type] The Black Powder [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Finnish traditional doom metal band Lord Vicar return with their fourth full-length ‘The Black Powder’. This album shifts away from the meandering psychedelia of ‘Gates of Flesh’ and returns to the core of Lord Vicar‘s sound at inception without entirely forgetting where they’ve been since. It is a long, and melodramatic ride that will likely drag on for some due to its length. ‘Fear No Pain’ (2008) is up there in my Top 10 doom metal records of all time and part of me is just happy to get more material from Lord Vicar that sounds like a continuation of that initial thread beyond the cessation of Reverend Bizarre. Just how effective this sharply presented Finnish doom metal album is comes as a surprise since it’d appeared they were all moving in different directions after the previous record. I enjoyed it and ended up listening to it regularly since it released.


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Artist Obsequiae
Title [Type] The Palms of Sorrowed Kings [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Minneapolis, Minnesota area ‘medieval’ black metal act Obsequiae was at least partially conceived for the love of lead guitar driven black/folk metal and melodic black metal acts that’d become more prevalent in the second half of the 90’s. The initial formation of the project, Autumnal Winds, makes more sense from this point of view as a generational extension of bands like early Fall of the Leafe, Windir, Rotting Christ, as well as bands like Woods of Ypres and Nechochwen who’ve came from a similar place. With the name change came a refined and fully concieved vision that persists as a unique entity heavily influenced by ‘medieval’ melodicism. On this third full-length Obsequiae again bring a pristine, sub-genre transcendent set of fantastically ornate and evocative lead guitar driven pieces, remarkable tunes that find ‘The Palms of Sorrowed Kings’ marching along at a triumphant, inspiring pace. Celebratory, dour, and brightly presented — This music exists on a stylistic island that would feel unnatural within the black metal conversation if not for the vocal performances, which are still almost entirely rasped save some very effective guests. As a modern melodic black metal album the full listen is an expected success for the band. It is very similar to ‘Aria of Vernal Tombs’ in most respects but to be fair, I was just as big a fan of the last record.


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Artist Waste of Space Orchestra
Title [Type] Syntheosis [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Exciting as the provenance of this glorious transgression is, as a performance piece commissioned for Roadburn Festival ’18 between members of Oranssi Pazuzu and Dark Buddha Rising, this fully fledged studio album based closely on those performances stands quite well on its own as a progressive sludge/doom metal masterpiece. Bringing this ‘wastement jam’ collective into focus for a grand psychedelic black metal tinged, King Crimson-sized sludge metal opera couldn’t have been an easy feat to arrange and they’d miraculously managed to not make an irregular mush of it all. This epic clash between The Shaman, The Seeker, and The Possessor is not only one of the more unique releases of 2019 but it ends up being a viable full listen in parts as well as a complete thematically resolved piece. An unforgettable record for the year and one that certainly held weight outside of the niches both core bands inhabit.


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Artist Werian
Title [Type] Animist [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Werian‘s lycanthropic moon-worshiping atmospheric black/psychedelic doom metal mystère hails from the mystic wilderness of Thuringia, Germany where the ritualistic approach of ‘Animist’ was born from paganistic spiritual meditation during key times of the year. Nothing else sounds like ‘Animist’, which features now fully developed versions of these pieces they’ve been perfecting since forming in 2009. The atmosphere of these three extended black/doom pieces has some of the dream-like progressions of ‘Sweven’-era Morbus Chron and a guitar tone that texturally strikes the same chord as the first Obliveon record. Odd references, I know, but this is exactly why I loved ‘Animist’ as it doesn’t fit snugly in any one place yet it is still an effective and exciting set of performances. No doubt the intrepid mind behind Mosaic must’ve been involved in this anonymous project in some way because it smacks of his atmospheric talents. Call this an EP if you’d like, it is ~46 minutes long across the span of three songs. An immersive and always rewarding listen that stuck with me throughout the year.


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Artist Critical Defiance
Title [Type] Misconception [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Chile based thrash metal band Critical Defiance have nailed the ‘classic’ thrash metal album in terms of sound, riffs and a crucial attitude. ‘Misconception’ does a fine job of pointing fingers where they are due on this Coroner, Slayer, and Kreator influenced bully of a debut full-length. The theatrical quality of late 80’s Bay Area thrash is in full effect as the debut progresses but these guys are too punk rock for anything too pompous or self-indulgent. In fact the demo they recorded after this LP features more of a crossover-thrash style with less elaborate song structures. For my own taste this was the absolute best thrash metal record of the year, it is the complete package and a great example of properly done riff-heavy classic thrash metal just as the best were doing it back in the late 80’s.


V.

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Artist Funereal Presence
Title [Type] Achatius [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

‘Achatius’ should very well be the agreed upon black metal album of the year. New York musician Bestial Devotion has been a true inspiration to me since the release of Negative Plane‘s ‘Stained Glass Revelations’ (2011), an album that would warp my mind nearly as much as the first album from his solo act Funereal Presence, ‘The Archer Takes Aim’ (2014), did. The press release stated that the artist was compelled to create ‘Achatius’ because nothing satisfied his vision for music, to paraphrase, and a concerted listen to any one of these four 11-13 minute epics should reveal exactly why. The magic of a release such as this is that it comes as one of a known species but exists not of this world; An identifiably ‘old school’ black metal release with a love for the oddities of the Eastern Bloc in the late 80’s that translates those avant-garde horrors into epic speed metal masterpieces. There are comparable acts in the modern wilds, Malokarpatan and Spite are great examples, but a 45 minute run with ‘Achatius’ additionally conjures the ghosts of pre-viking Bathory, Tormentor (Hungary) and even some hits of Mortuary Drape‘s debut. Ancient ways applied to new inventive pieces is exactly what stuck with me in 2019 across the board and there might not be a finer example than this second Funereal Presence album.


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Artist Reveal
Title [Type] Scissorgod [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Reveal‘s trip from black/death thrashers to death-noise rockers towards this art rock, noise rock, psychedelic blackened death rock brilliance is commendable as great feat of transformation after being joined by the bassist from In Solitude, and effectively progressing towards towards todays haunting psychotic rock presence. Applying the severe edges of black metal to freakout psychedelic rock is genius when done right and this stylistic shift really works on ‘Scissorgod’. It shouldn’t be too surprising for those who’d stuck around after ‘Flystrips’ (2016), which was more of a straight post-punk/noise rock structured album. The middle of the album is its great strength and helped to make this one of my most frequent listens for the latter half of the year. The progression from the reprisal of “Down Through the Hole” through “The Plot Thickens” is pure insanity. I’d at least say this is one of the most original records I came across in 2019.


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Artist Troll
Title [Type] Legend Master [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

There is no better doom metal album released in 2019 than Troll‘s second LP. ‘Legend Master’ is a high fantasy epic stretched across five easy-flown psychedelic doom metal songs that dip towards a progressive/stoner influenced sound, if you can wrap your head around that. Elder, Solstice, Warning, and Pallbearer are good general references for production sound and style but the stoney side of the band is uniquely theirs along with vocalist Rainbo, who is always brilliant and a major point of personality for their music thanks to his unique vocal style. It is a slow-burner and the shortest songs go well beyond the eight minute mark but they earn that patience across the span of the record.


II.

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Artist Tomb Mold
Title [Type] Planetary Clairvoyance [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW! | INTERVIEW

‘Planetary Clairvoyance’ is a death metal album generations removed from the sub-genre’s earliest creative peak in the early-to-mid 1990’s that manages to effortlessly recapture the sound of that old underground as it was still developing in the wilds. I’d admittedly focused too much on whom Tomb Mold resembled by way of riffs when I approached their first two full-lengths and this time around I’d allow this third one to be its own thing. Identity inevitably crystallizes under bands that allow time to move too quickly past them and yet even in the space of three years and three full-lengths Tomb Mold seem capable of encroaching upon any number of stylistic directions, death metal niches, due to their multitude of influences. Beyond any style notes I could muster, this is the most sophisticated version of the band to date and the quartet have found a solid flow of ideas. I’d had the luck of getting to interview guitarist Derrick Vella about the album, himself, the songwriting process, video games, and the band in general and it is so far my favorite thing that has hit this website, worth a read. As I’d suggested ‘Planetary Clairvoyance’ is a new paradigm for this Finnish-leaning ‘old school’ death metal influenced band as they extend their oeuvre with influences from New York death metal while embracing the cosmic horror within the atmospheric celestial mechanics of Mithras and Cynic. Riffs are all over this thing and a few notable swings towards the Crematory and Demigod side made Tomb Mold‘s latest an easy repeat listen but it was the focus on themed atmosphere that’d made it memorable.


I.

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Artist Krypts
Title [Type] Cadaver Circulation [Full-length]
Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Finnish atmospheric death/doom metal band Krypts are unequaled as they release their third masterpiece just over a decade beyond forming in Helsinki. Their sound is cavernous and menacing, a Finnish ‘Antithesis of Light’ as dark and dismal in direction as Desecresy but crisply realized as a hallucinogenic Convocation-sized expanse of Rippikoulu-esque brutality directed by heavy strokes of doom. The heavier death metal attack of their first album was missing from the generally atmosphere-bound death/doom of ‘Remnants of Expansion’ (2016) and it returns in full force into the nebula-gaping resonance of ‘Cadaver Circulation’, their best release to date. Massive production sound, best cover artwork this year, and the unquestionable top of the 2019 stack for me this year.


If I missed your favorite album from 2019 I’m not surprised! E-mail me or hit me up on twitter if you want me to review your favorite album (past or present). If you’re in a band, run a label or PR company and you want a review of your latest thing, hit the Contact page or send a copy using my e-mail: grizzlybutts@hotmail.com , keep in mind there is a FAQ on this site detailing certain styles of music I won’t cover.

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